6 - Annette
It hurt. When I stood in the queue for a coffee in the same place I’d bought coffee for over twenty years. Some woman in front of me in the queue said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, ‘There are too many bloody foreigners in this country, that’s the trouble. They should go back to where they came from.’ She had no shame in what she said.
The man standing beside her laughed and spun around to see who was listening. ‘I always check to see who’s behind me before I say anything, just to see if there’s anyone foreign there who might be offended,’ he said, pausing as he caught my eye. He looked back at the woman. ‘But you’re a lady and you can get away with it,’ he laughed at the woman before taking his coffee and quickly moving away.
I wondered how he would know who was foreign and who was native to this country. I wondered why it hurt me. I don’t look foreign - I don’t feel foreign but my father was Polish and during my childhood he was a registered “alien” to the country until he eventually was accepted as a British Citizen. Dad came over here at the end of the war in 1945. He always worked hard, as a labourer on building sites and later trained as a psychiatric nurse. He never took the easy option in life and carried his war “wounds” with him, emotionally damaged to the end. I’m proud of my father and of my roots. All of my mother’s family lived in this town - she was born in a terraced cottage not far from this cafe. Do I not belong? My grandfather was Welsh but lived in this town since my mother’s childhood. If foreigners were excluded, where would I be now?
I used to think this was the best country in the world to live in but I keep meeting people like that man and woman in the queue and wonder if I’ve been wrong all along.
It all went wrong for me when I gave up the job working for Tip Top Carers. I know now I should have stuck it out although seriously they were taking the mickey. How did they expect us to give decent care to the poor old dears when we had to cram so many into one day. It wasn’t possible to get round them all unless some were short-changed with our time. It came to a head the day I spent an extra ten minutes with Elsie. Only ten minutes of my time to listen to her - hold her hand while she told me about her husband who’d died the year before. Then Mrs. Everson was on the floor when I got to her - she’d tried to get out of bed on her own. I couldn’t get her up by myself and had to call for an ambulance. By the time they came I was two hours behind. I’d phoned the office to let them know but that wasn’t good enough apparantly. No one else to do my cases - so I had to work extra fast to catch up with myself.
By the time I got home that night it was nearly midnight. I broke down and sobbed at the thought of all those poor old dears just waiting for me to come round. I’d poured myself a large glass of red wine and sat up in bed thinking about it all. Something snapped inside my head that night.
I never went back.
Now I try not to think about the people I’ve left behind. Someone else will be dashing about trying to look after them now - Tip Top Carers - Huh!
But of course, I couldn’t stay at home and do nothing. I need the money as well as anything else. I looked around for another job. Apart from the same thing in different agencies there wasn’t anything else - so I got this voluntary shop assistant job at Wendy’s Wishes. I love it. Wish it was a paid job though - I don’t know how long I can go on with just Jobseekers.